Redefine Your Buyer Personas For A Winning Recovery In 2021

Some of our all-time favorite movies involve an actress or actor transforming into a character that made them entirely unrecognizable.  Through the use of make-up, prosthetics, and costumes, an actor and actress can perform as a historical or fantastical figure.  A most recent example is the 2019 movie, Judy.  Which was about the life of the late actress and singer Judy Garland.  Renee Zellweger portrayed Judy Garland and earned an Oscar from the Academy Awards for Best Actress.  The movie also was nominated for Best Costume and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.  Zellweger’s transformation to look, act, and sound like Judy Garland was an amazing feat in movie history.

Similarly, buyers can also undergo changes making them almost unrecognizable.  Perhaps not as unrecognizable as movies can do.  But unrecognizable, nevertheless.  The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the face of buyers profoundly.  Calling into question for many B2B sales and marketing leaders how well they know their buyers.  Chief officers in sales and marketing are left with the tasks of knowing to what degree and how so have they changed.

Redefine Buyer Personas

Knowing how buyers are being affected means revisiting buyer profiles and buyer personas.  When the concept of a buyer persona was originated in 2001, they were derived from the experiences in creating goal-directed user personas for product design.  Whereby the essence of personas is in understanding the pursuit of goals by users and in this case, buyers. 

A key question B2B sales and marketing leaders can ask themselves in revisiting buyer profiles and buyer personas is: do my buyer personas read like a role or job description?  If so, you may be dealing with buyer profiles masquerading as buyer personas.  Meaning they are not going to be of much help other than being a fact sheet for sales and marketing intelligence. 

Today, it is becoming a mandate to go well beyond the intelligence of fact-based role descriptions, buying criteria, and other profiling related factors. Employing the use of buyer research and buyer insights to go beyond.

The first step in going beyond just facts is to redefine your buyer personas to be goal-directed.  Buyer’s pursuit of goals is changing drastically and you need to know how and why they are changing.  A role or job-description buyer profile or buyer persona will leave you ill-informed.  And make your buyers even more unrecognizable.

What To Focus On

B2B leaders can focus on a few areas that will help them to get to know their buyers.  Enabling them to get a handle on how much they have been affected and changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  More importantly, to get in alignment with buyers.  Here are a few areas to focus on:

Goals:  As mentioned, buyer personas are defined by their focus on goals.  There is deep social science around the theory of goals.  Much too deep to cover in an article.  What B2B leaders should boil it down to is that buyers are motivated to pursue accomplishing goals.  There are many different types of goals and sub-goals that buyers pursue.  At this moment in time, B2B leaders will need to look at becoming enablers of accomplishing goals.

Buyer Thinking:  Much has been written about building empathy into sales and marketing messaging.  Empathy, by its nature, is defined by being able to understand the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others.  Qualitative buyer research is a way to gain insights into how buyers are thinking as well as feeling.   Gaining insight into how they think currently as well as their thoughts about the future. 

Situational Scenarios:  Stated simply, your buyer personas are useless without understanding the context in which goals are playing out.  B2B leaders should be asking: how does this pursuit of goals actually happen?  You can be sure that the situations and scenarios faced by buyers have undergone big changes in the past seven months.  

Journey Orchestration:  As buyers go about learning how they can accomplish a goal or solve a problem-associated goal, the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating trends on how buyers interact.  Both internally as well as externally.  With digital content as a constant, we are seeing buyers wanting totally seller-free interactions to intense seller-intervention to help them.  B2B leaders will need to learn how various buyers go about navigating their journeys and become themselves, journey orchestrators.

Buyer Interactions:  Creating fulfilling buyer experiences has put emphasis on the need for Buyer Interaction Design (BxD).  With digital transformation accelerating, B2B leaders will need to look at how to design digital interactions that enable buyers.  Accounting for their preferences and behaviors when it comes to interacting with multiple channels.

Increase Organizational Understanding Of Buyers Now And Post-Pandemic

Pulling teams together is hard enough even without a pandemic.  Leaders today face the herculean effort of getting teams on the same page to serve buyers.  They will have a much better chance at recovery if their teams have a common view of their buyers.   A common view not based on role or job descriptions but based on the story of how buyers are pursuing goals.

Buyer personas are an important part of increasing an organization’s overall capabilities in possessing buyer insights.  Redefining, updating, and bringing purpose to your buyer personas is proving to be a necessary path towards recovery in 2021. 

Tony
Article by Tony Zambito
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